Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mom is dying I

Last Friday, tests confirmed that Mom's earlier breast cancer has metastasized. It is now in her lungs, liver, bone, and lymph nodes. Already suffering from COPD and tired of living, Mom sees the diagnosis as a form of relief. Before, she could see no end in sight, other than one self-inflicted. COPD does not kill. It maims, slowly and relentlessly. Now, she is on a path with a more definite outcome, both in terms of cause and date. She has become more focused. She is not afraid of dying. She repeated that to me yesterday, but she about broke my heart with her next sentence. Speaking in a tiny voice, her lower lip trembling and eyes moistening, she said only, "But I'm sad." I stroked her head, pushing some strands of hair off her face, my own eyes tearing up. I could only respond, "I know." And I do. She is already missing her full life, her loved ones, the boys she loved and raised, the whirlwind world tours with Dad and the deep love they share. I know that the same kind of sadness will likely engulf me when my time comes. Her simple statement confirmed that. It resonated deeply.

I see as if yesterday her brilliant smile, the young, stylish, beautiful, vivacious mother, her reddish-blonde hair blowing in the breeze on the shore of the Long Island Sound. I see her profile in the driver's seat as she drove me down Route 11 deep into Virginia and Briar Hills, and feel the homesickness as she disappeared down the dirt road on the way back. I can chuckle at her contrariness that lurked barely beneath the surface of her suburban housewife facade. She is a brilliant woman who, had she lived in a later age, could have become a respected professional in any number of careers. She knows that, and it has rankled her for as long as I can remember. Sometimes the resentment would bubble up, but her love for Dad and his for her always won out. It was the salve that soothed the abundant inequities she endured as an accomplished woman in a man's world.